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On Display: The Japanese Instrument of Surrender

Today’s post comes from Darlene McClurkin, from the National Archives Exhibits staff.

Signing the Instrument of Surrender, September 2, 1945. (General Records of the Department of the Navy, National Archives)

Signing the Instrument of Surrender, September 2, 1945. (General Records of the Department of the Navy, National Archives)

On September 2, 1945, in a formal ceremony aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan, representatives of the Japanese government signed this Instrument of Surrender, officially ending World War II.

The terms called for “the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under Japanese control wherever situated.” Although it preserved the Japanese Imperial House.

Signing for Japan was Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff.

General Douglas MacArthur, Commander in the Southwest Pacific, signed for the United States and accepted the surrender in his capacity as the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.

Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz also signed for the United States.

Then representatives from eight other Allied nations signed, including the Republic of China, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. The ceremony took less than 30 minutes.

General Wainwright unveils exhibit of surrender document, September 12, 1945. (National Archives Identifier 4477174)

General Wainwright unveils exhibit of surrender document, September 12, 1945. (64-NA-421; National Archives Identifier 4477174)

After the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was presented to President Harry S. Truman at the White House on September 7, 1945, it was put on exhibit at the … [ Read all ]

On Exhibit: Voting Rights Act of 1965

Today’s post comes from Alex Nieuwsma, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

The Voting Rights Act, August 6, 1965 (signature page). (General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives)

The Voting Rights Act, August 6, 1965 (signature page). (General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives Identifier 299909)

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a milestone in American history. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it on August 6, 1965, marking the culmination of decades of efforts toward African American equality.

The 15th Amendment, passed in 1870, clearly stated that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

In response, many southern states issued voting tests to African Americans that all but guaranteed they would fail and be unable to vote. Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), upheld the “separate but equal” doctrine permitting racial segregation. While African Americans were legally citizens of the United States, they commonly had separate drinking fountains, stores, bus seats, and schools.

The civil rights movement grew immensely after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. The Board of Education ruling in 1954, which struck down the Plessy v. Ferguson decision and deemed the segregation of schools to be unconstitutional.

The leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., further propelled the movement.

A Baptist preacher in … [ Read all ]

New Web Exhibit on Center Market

"Front View of 7th Street Entrance to Center Market" October, 1922. (National Archives Identifier 7851122)

“Front View of 7th Street Entrance to Center Market” October, 1922. (National Archives Identifier 7851122)

In 1797, President George Washington designated two acres in the heart of Washington City for use as a public marketplace. For the next 134 years, Center Market was a Washington D.C. landmark on Pennsylvania Avenue, until it was demolished in 1931 to make way for the National Archives Building.

The National Archives History Office has produced a new online exhibit on Center Market, which is available in the Google Cultural Institute.

Throughout its history, Center Market was loud and lively. The marketplace was filled with crowds of people and transportation of all kinds. Street vendors or “hucksters,” farmers, and market men sold fruits, vegetables, and live animals to city-dwelling Washingtonians. The market attracted middle-class ladies, community leaders, businessmen, and social reformers.

"Plan on the Center Market and the Washington Market Company", 1869. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

“Plan on the Center Market and the Washington Market Company,” 1869. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

In its earliest days, Center Market was no more than a collection of ramshackle wooden sheds. Bordered by the Washington Canal, the swampy land earned it the nickname “Marsh Market.”

Early Washingtonians recalled hunting wild ducks in the wetlands near the market and purchasing live fish right from the Canal.

As the city of Washington D.C. grew, so did complaints about the dirt and disorder of the public market.

A group … [ Read all ]

New Web Exhibit on the Freedom Train

A souvenir postcard from the Freedom Train. (National Archives Identifier 18520032)

A souvenir postcard from the Freedom Train. (National Archives Identifier 18520032)

For 18 months in the late 1940s, some of the nation’s most important historical documents toured the country in a traveling museum called the Freedom Train.

The National Archives History Office has produced a new online exhibit on the Freedom Train, which is available in the Google Cultural Institute.

Viewed by more than 3.5 million Americans, the Freedom Train stopped in cities in each of the 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states at this time).

The Freedom Train was intended to increase awareness of the need to preserve important documents as well as to allow Americans throughout the country to see these documents.

Photograph of visitors looking at the Bill of Rights in the Freedom Train Exhibit, October 20, 1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167308)

Photograph of visitors looking at the Bill of Rights in the Freedom Train Exhibit, October 20, 1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167308)

The American Heritage Foundation was created to design, protect, and operate the train and its contents.

A committee containing members from the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and other government agencies planned and designed the exhibit.

A group of 27 Marines was hand selected to protect the Freedom Train on its tour, and a coalition of railroad companies ensured that the Freedom Train would travel across America as efficiently as possible.

Photograph of visitors looking at the Bill of Rights in the Freedom Train Exhibit, October 20, 1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167308)

Photograph of visitors looking at the Bill of Rights in the Freedom Train Exhibit,

[ Read all ]

Celebrate July 4th with the National Archives in DC, nationwide, and online!

Join the National Archives in celebrating the 239th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with special events in Washington, DC, at Presidential Libraries nationwide, and online!

You can see the full press release online here.

Celebrate July 4th at the National Archives in Washington, DC

The National Archives in Washington, DC, will celebrate the 239th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with its traditional Fourth of July program. C-SPAN host Steve Scully will return to serve as emcee for a fourth year, and Archivist David S. Ferriero will make remarks.

The free celebration will include patriotic music, a dramatic reading of the Declaration by historical reenactors, and exciting family activities and entertainment for all ages. See here for more information.

If you can’t make it out to the nation’s capital, the festivities will be live-streamed on the National Archives YouTube channel.

July 4th at the National Archives is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation with the generous support of Signature Sponsor John Hancock. Major support provided by The Coca-Cola Company and Dykema.

Celebrate July 4th at the National Archives Presidential Libraries

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, IA

An Eastern Iowa Brass Band Concert at the West Branch High School will feature museum docent Richard Paulus as Samuel Adams reading the Declaration of Independence. This event is at 2 p.m.

For … [ Read all ]